Monday, December 11, 2017

Just Remain Calm

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After a time of hellish difficulty, what do you do to bring a calming effect? Whether it be a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual difficulty. Does the effect come in the way of a cup of your favorite tea? A good cry? A cozy fire? Maybe a walk in a quiet place?

Lately, I have been trying to remain calm in the midst of returning to part time work after being unemployed for twenty-one months. I have to admit that while there was gratitude, I was also freaking out.

While it was the beginning of a new adventure in a role I had never done before, it was something that I knew would be an extraordinary adjustment. I would have to re-think my schedule and squeeze things I did in a week into a couple days off. There would be much more planning and arranging involved than before.

It is somewhat of an overstatement to say that I was feeling overwhelmed. Even though I knew that the new job was exactly what God was calling me to, it didn't necessarily mean that I was ready for it. There was anxiety about how well I would do and learn within an office environment again.

To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to the new chapter in my life and there were many long conversations where I spilled my guts about how scared I was to lose some freedom and be seconded to a desk. I guess I imagined things manifesting themselves a bit differently when I started working again.

Yet, when it came to the night before my first day back in the blue collar world, there was one person I could truly count on to talk me down 'off the ledge' of my inner turmoil - God. I began to recall situations of the past when God came to my rescue when I was 'losing my cheese' about fearful things that I knew were coming, so this situation was no different. It was obvious what I had to do.

I sat on the couch in silence and began to read God's Word. More specifically, times in the Bible when people struggled with their present circumstances and how God intervened in their thoughts of fear and anxiety.

It wasn't long before I felt the calm and steady reassurance of God's voice in the text to the people who worried - and there were a lot of people throughout its history who fretted - from kings to prophets.

There is a book in the Bible called Isaiah. In chapter 7 of the book, it talks about a king by the name of Ahaz who was petrified about fighting against a group that was very powerful. In fact, Ahaz's anxiety was so extreme about this army that his own people were shaking with fear.

Isaiah, a great prophet, was directed by God to deliver a special and personal message to Ahaz. He said to Ahaz, "Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid." (Isaiah 7:4). Isaiah then went on to tell Ahaz that his military efforts against the enemy he dreaded, would be successful and the land would be laid waste.

Granted, this was an extreme encouragement in a very extreme set of circumstances but, ultimately, Ahaz was greatly encouraged and succeeded in overcoming his own strife. So, in turn, I was encouraged. That no matter what I was facing with going back to work, I had the calming effect within needed to get me through any scenario I'll face as I transition into this new season of life.

Encouragement for the week:

Are you facing something in your life that is causing you a lot of anxiety? I am there and completely understand.

It's hard to believe that you'll ever get over the feeling of being afraid...but you will.

If you are a Christian, you have the wonderful reassurance offered through God's Word and covering prayer. You can be calm and confident in all you do because you have these supernatural tools.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He has the beautifully calming reassurance that you are desperate for in your life right now.







Monday, December 4, 2017

How You Doin'?



No. Really. How are you? Please know that I am not asking out of obligation but of a genuine interest in how you are doing! I really want to know.

I've noticed, more and more, that our society seems to operate at an arm's length. That some people, while having the best intentions, ask the above question not really wanting an answer. A real answer.

The kind of real answer that could be messy or uncomfortable for the person who asked the question in the first place.

An answer wrought with pain, hurt, isolation, rejection, or loneliness that may even cause fear in the questioner because it's now becoming a commitment.

A commitment to sit down and listen to someone who feels like their life is falling apart. Someone who might see you as their only source of hope, empathy and compassion.

Their only lifeline to getting through the pain and another day. So why do so many people ask the question if they are afraid of the answer? Why are people so afraid to ask the question in the first place?

In the Bible, there is a verse that talks about being in the trenches with another person during difficult times. It talks about weeping with those who weep, mourning with those who mourn but also rejoicing with those who rejoice or celebrate.

To have compassion and empathy. To walk in the other person's shoes, telling them that you are there for them. Truly there.

While their hurt may not be similar to anything that you have experienced, being hurt is universal. Shouldn't care and compassion be universal too?

Unfortunately, it isn't and there are many who choose to remain at arm's length. I am not one of those persons.

I know what it's like to hurt beyond the ability to describe the intensity and excruciating nature of the hurt.

I also know what it's like to be walked past by others who never ask how I am. That hurts too but I don't judge or condemn anyone who may not want to ask the question.

Instead, I make a conscious effort to seek out the lonely, the hurting, the rejected. I choose to stand in the trenches with those who are feeling pain beyond anything they've experienced before.

I choose to be there with them and pray for them when words fail me or my words fail to comfort them and, instead, I sit with them sharing in a dark piece of their world.

I choose to be a compassionate, empathetic, and caring woman because, for me, it's the right thing to do.

At one time, I was a child who loved to play in the mud. Okay, even as an adult, I still love to play in the mud. I don't mind being in the muck or getting dirty.

I don't run or shy away from the messy or the uncomfortable because I've been in the mud of life experiences and the hurt that can erupt out of some of those experiences.

Long ago, I used to be a very off-putting, cold-hearted, and evil-minded woman. Never again. By the grace and love of a good God, I have been saved from that.

As a result of that change, I want to walk alongside those who feel hopeless and frayed. I want to be someone who is never afraid to ask the question...how are you?

Encouragement for the week:

How are you doing today? Was it hard to get out of bed? Were you hoping that today would be different...better?

It's okay if you're not doing well. We all have moments when we're down.

If you are a Christian, you know that God cares about everything in your life, especially how you're doing. Turn to Him and find the comfort of His arms waiting to give you peace and comfort in your day.

It you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He cares for you and how you're doing. He is waiting to give you the relief you need in your difficult time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Adrian!!!

**Photo courtesty of www.google.ca**


Boxing is a formidable and unforgiving sport. You must have skill, speed, and the utmost strategy to defeat your opponent. Ideally, you want it to end in a knockout, to your favor.

In Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa's friend, Apollo Creed, challenges a massive and elite Soviet Russian boxer named Ivan Drago. In spite of Rocky's incessant warnings against the fight, Apollo takes on the Soviet brute. Ivan's superior athleticism and physical build are no match for Apollo and he dies in the ring.

Rocky is so enraged by the outcome and Drago's obvious indifference at having killed Balboa's long time friend, that Rocky challenges Ivan to a fight in the Soviet Union on Christmas Day. Rocky takes on an unorthodox training regimen that, along with sheer determination, brings him victory over the giant, ending in a knockout.

Whenever I hear about the Rocky movies, this one specifically, I am quickly reminded of a similar story that takes place in the Bible. It is found in a book by the name of 1 Samuel. Within that book, a story is told about a young sheep herder by the name of David.

He has been working in the fields for many years keeping his father's sheep. It hasn't been a lazy vocation. David has been challenged by predators that have come to attack and kill his flock. I guess you could say that David was a Rocky in training.

Not only did David have to keep his sheep together at all times, but the predators in question consisted of a lion and a bear. Both of which David killed with his bare hands. Rather impressive. Yet, little did David know that these events were part of a greater training against a giant, a literal giant.

A Philistine by the name of Goliath who stood over nine feet tall and was terrorizing the Israelites - a group which David was a part of. David was also a man who had a close relationship with God and trusted God to help him kill the lion and bear that had threatened David's flock.

So, with nothing more than a slingshot and five smooth rocks that David had picked from a nearby stream, he ran to the battle line to face Goliath, challenging him to a match.

David was so confident and courageous in God that he called out the giant as being as good as dead saying, "This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down..." - 1 Samuel 17:46. Taking aim at the Philistine, David slung one, smooth stone, deep into the forehead of Goliath and he fell facedown, dead.

All of the training and solitude had paid off for David and the Israelites were freed from the tyrant, Goliath and the rest of the Philistines. This story of David always helps me to believe in myself and know that because I have God in my life, anything is possible.

No matter what situation I face, there is the great force of God who has my back. Helping me to be strong and courageous in the face of fear and anxiety. Along with a reassuring peace that remains immovable in uncertain times and intimidating circumstances.

I figure if David could be that courageous to take on a giant and win, there's really nothing in my own life that I can't overcome because of the strength and confidence I have as a result of being in a relationship with God.

Encouragement for the week:

Is there a giant in your life that you would love nothing more than to knock out? You're definitely not alone.

Whether it's anxiety over starting a new job or a fear of ending a toxic friendship, you have what it takes to overcome and defeat the situation.

If you are a Christian, you know you have a mighty team in your corner to help you take on anything or anyone. You have the power and presence of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as your trainers and support system and they will give you the courage to win.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He along with the Father and the Holy Spirit will enable you to face any situation with boldness and strength.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Take A Pause

**Photo courtesy of www.google.com**

Pronounced a couple different ways (seelah, saylah), the word Selah, as defined by Wikipedia, means several things. From "rock" or "like a rock", to "stop and listen" and "pause, think of that". It may also indicate a break in a song.

For me, Selah has become a meaningful practice in my life as I've applied the meaning to stop, pause, and reflect, much more than the other meanings given by Wikipedia. Often, I will find a quiet place to reflect deeply about things and events in my life that have had an impact on who I am as a woman.

Some of the things I stop to think about and reflect on have been both positive and negative in nature. The negative reflective points have been a source of lessons learned, the greatest being wisdom in how to better navigate my way through negative or difficult times to come.

It's at times of reflection that have gleaned the most insight, refreshment and peace. I know that even though I am a Christian and have chosen to follow Jesus, I am not perfect and need a lot of guidance and grace. Mistakes are often made and help, frequently needed. If it wasn't for finding Jesus, I wouldn't be here.

At the end of the day, it's by reflecting that I can come into an appreciation of where I've been and where I am going. That the mistakes made in the past have no hold on me now and do not determine or define my future.

I'm definitely not the same person today as years ago and that is a good thing. I don't believe we're meant to be complacent in thought or action but to go through the tough stuff, brush ourselves off and keep moving forward.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever wanted to go back in time and re-do something that you still regret doing?

Of course, we all wish that. The reality is, we can't but we can take time to think things out when met with a similar situation today.

To take a pause, insert wisdom, and do things differently that will be beneficial.

If you are a Christian, you know that pausing to seek wisdom from God will only benefit us when facing difficult situations and decisions. Continue to take time, pausing and reflecting, before acting.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He is ready to help you make better decisions for your life.







Monday, November 13, 2017

Deep Introspection


**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**


Introspection is defined as the, ‘Contemplation of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations; self-examination; heart-searching.’

As I daily live out this life of following God and surrendering to what God wishes to do in and through me, as well as remaining physically ready for whatever comes next, there exists a common denominator within me. One that causes me great introspection throughout this faith walk. I suspect it will keep resonating within me until the denominator is quenched once and for all…but can it? The denominator I speak of is feeling alone.

I have often found myself standing in the midst of people, even chaos, and being unable to deny the unmistakable gnawing of feeling so alone. “But you are not alone, my Child,” God says. “I know I’m not totally alone God, for I have You", I reply. “But I really do feel alone, Lord", I add.

I can’t seem to explain or describe my ‘aloneness’ in relation to what that feeling stirs within me. Quite often I have to be content to feel alone and move forward while questions of, “Will I ever stop feeling like a foreigner in a strange land? Will I ever stop feeling so alone?”, make a mess of my already perplexed mind.

They say, “Don’t have any regrets.” Before becoming a Christian, I lived a smeared and dirty life filled with regrets. Regret for all the horrible things I did and how unworthy those horrible things made me feel about myself. Then when I became a Christian, all of that changed in an instant and I was released from every regret and sinful deed. I was freed.

Now I live a life knowing I will never have regrets because when my heart is impressed to help someone, I’ll help. When I’m prompted to tell someone I care or that I love them, that's what I'll do. Just because I feel alone, doesn’t mean I can’t extend a word of encouragement to someone else who might be feeling the same.

We all long to be loved and cared for and our hearts really do cry out...for something. Something beyond us and our understanding. I often cry out to God from my heart for all the desires that are housed there but the best takes time and that means waiting.

So I have to wait and I have to be patient. I can barely type that word without laughing out loud for I am not the most patient woman but my many experiences with God have, well, stretched me to grow into a state of being patient as I, often, need to be.

As long as I have known God I know He has a sense of humor. I can’t always say that it’s the kind of humor that I can appreciate but it does make Him easier to relate to. He knows my inner hurts and needs and He is always working in me and my life, even though I may not see any progress. In turn, I know the commitment I have made to Him because of wanting His very best for me.

As for my aloneness? Well, someone reminded me of how alone Paul must have felt. Paul is a fellow in the Bible who was called to do God’s work and he was opposed a lot for doing so. So much that he only had a few good friends who stood by him as he did the work he needed to do. My heart goes out to Paul, but it was as though his dedication to God always seemed to mask that aloneness and he just kept going.

In my own experience, every time I've been met with this feeling of being alone, God has always met me there, saying in His still, small voice, "You're never alone, beloved, for I am here with you." His voice soothes and satiates me until the next time I feel alone, for it won't truly be satisfied until I'm with Him in eternity.

Encouragement for the week:

Ever feel alone? It's a natural, human response that we all go through from time to time.

How do you fill the loneliness? Is the solution lasting or fleeting?

If you are a Christian, you know how a dedicated life to God can be lonely sometimes but you also know that nothing truly satisfies like a deep, intimate relationship with God. He will fill you to overflowing and meet you in the times of feeling alone.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He can fill the spaces of loneliness in ways the world never will. He is the 'something' your heart is longing for.


Monday, November 6, 2017

In The Line Of Fire

**Photo courtesty of google.com**

In this movie, Clint Eastwood's character, Frank Horrigan, plays a Secret Service agent in charge of protecting the personal safety of the President of the United States. As the story unfolds, Frank becomes the target of an ex-CIA assassin, turned would-be killer, who wants to take out the current president.

This foe taunts Frank with detailed information from his past including a failed attempt to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, whom Frank was assigned to protect early in his Secret Service career.

As this dramatic thriller comes to a close, Frank successfully thwarts the assassination attempt and the target is removed from Frank's character and reputation, along with the assassin. Frank is, again, known as an agent of honor and integrity.

Do you ever feel like you're walking through life with a bullseye on your forehead? That you're being shamed, judged, or gossiped about by others without ever understanding why? There have been many times in my life when I have been misunderstood. When a look on my face seemed to translate into a negative disposition to others, without them ever saying a word.

When non-malicious behavior, on my part, was deemed overtly malicious by someone who never asked a single question. It was extremely disheartening for me to find out that my attitude, personality, and habits were being formed by others who had not only never talked to me but who never knew me.

For whatever reason, the person never took the time to engage in a conversation with me and really get to know me. To find out how I tick, what my facial expressions truly mean, and what motivations lie behind my actions.

So, how can you find out who someone is and what lies behind their serious face? Conversation. Whether in person or over the phone, you can get to know a person pretty well and their demeanor, feelings, motives, and personality.

In a short period of time, you can find out what prompts that person to anger, disinterest, or indifference. Next thing you know, the person you used to target with your bullish words and gossipy ways, turns out to be a pretty decent human being. You have become friends with someone who is incredibly cool and it's all because you took away the veil of your own judgement and adopted an accepting attitude.

There is a book in the Bible called Matthew and in chapter 1, verse 7, it says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (NIV) Wow. That's pretty harsh, isn't it? Not really because what goes around, really does come around and Jesus knew that better than anyone. That's what His perfection and divine knowledge were all about. He could always call things out that other people never saw.

I used to be a person who judged others negatively and what I put out, eventually came back onto me by others judging me unfairly. So the next time someone tells you not to judge a book by its cover, take it to heart before making your next move.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever been unfairly judged, feeling like the bullseye on a target? It can be intimidating, disheartening and hurtful.

It matters that you're understood and not unjustly viewed through a skewed lens. Though others may judge you, don't let the pain of their untrue assessment stop you from reaching out to someone you may have judged in the past.

If you are a Christian, the words of Jesus should be a stark reminder of how we should be conducting ourselves as His followers. Be a person who takes the time to get to know someone who is different from you for they may not yet know about Jesus.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him. He holds no judgement toward you. He loves you and wants you to experience an abundant life without judgement toward yourself and others.




Monday, October 30, 2017

Two Weeks Notice

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

In this romantic comedy, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant's characters are at odds for most of the film. She a passionate and dedicated environmental lawyer, he an indecisive billionaire, join forces as part of a deal to preserve a local community center.

Throughout the film, Grant's character, George, can't seem to make any decisions without Sandra's character, Lucy's help. He also doesn't have the same kinds of values that Lucy possesses and considers important as a business man. Like being a man of integrity.

This becomes evident as the film progresses and George breaks his word to Lucy about saving the community center. The same center Lucy had been pouring her heart and legal wit into. In some ways, while Lucy expresses her disappointment in George, his actions don't come as a complete surprise to her.

However, like any romantic comedy, the movie doesn't end there. George finds his way to Lucy's new job office, makes amends by reading a speech saying he is keeping the community center and he professes his affections for her. Looks like some of Lucy's values rubbed off on George.

What we value in our lives has a significant impact on who we are. Not just inwardly but also outwardly, for others to see. If we value honesty, then we will be truthful in what we say. If we value integrity, like Lucy did, we will be someone of our word. We will follow through with a pledge we have verbalized.

A while back, I had the opportunity to identify my own values. The things in my life that I determine to live by like faith, compassion, love, and silliness to name a few. While there were eighty-four possible values to choose from, I was asked to make a list of my top ten. That was tough.

Values are something that we will hold on to, no matter what. They will be the very things we will never compromise ourselves over just to suit a situation or someone's influence. The things that shape us into better individuals and give us peace when we stand firm in them.

My faith has been held as the highest ranked value in my life. It's something I don't plan on compromising. Just like my other values - peace, understanding, wisdom, integrity, health, and so on. I think that once any one of those values are threatened with compromise, it's time to re-evaluate the environment in which it's being compromised.

Nothing is worth sacrificing one's own well being in order to meet the acceptance of a situation or person that may change in a matter of seconds. Values are like a compass, as the instructor of the value exercise said. Once you get off course of your own values, things change. You change.

It could be a change in demeanor, emotion, or behavior. Then there is an ill-ease followed by a lack of confidence to go in a different direction, away from your value. Next thing you know, you're feeling awful and saying things you have no idea from where they came.

In the Bible, there is a book called Matthew. In chapter 5, verse 37, it says, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'..." In other words, be sure of your answer. Be confident when standing strong in your personal values. They are a window into the person you are. Never compromise them.

Encouragement for the week:

We can be challenged, sometimes daily, in the things we value. It's important to know where we stand and the things we will never waver on.

You have values for a reason and they matter to you. Don't be afraid to stand firm in them or go against opposition in order to protect them.

If you are a Christian, you know how much God values you. He has also placed strong and important values within you. Always stay on course by never compromising those values.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He values you and desires to have you live out your personal values with strength and confidence.